The Peoples Democratic Party, on Friday in Abuja, disqualified two of its 17 presidential aspirants.
The Chairman of the Screening Committee, Senator David Mark, disclosed this to journalists shortly after the conclusion of the exercise at the Legacy House, Abuja, the presidential campaign headquarters of the main opposition.
The screening, which began around 11 am, lasted till 7 pm and involved all the aspirants.
Mark, however, declined to reveal the identities of the disqualified aspirants or the reasons for their disqualification.
He simply noted that the aspirants did not meet the requirements set by the panel.
While it was not clear what yardstick was used to weed out the two aspirants, it might not be far from the requirements of the Independent National Electoral Commission, which had the power to disqualify candidates on grounds of non-compliance with extant electoral laws.
Mark added that the report of Friday’s screening would be transmitted to the PDP National Working Committee for consideration on the same day.
He stated, “The exercise, as far as we’re concerned, went on very well. We’ve been here since morning, and I’m sure you people have been here since morning also.
“We’ve been very thorough this time. See how much time we’ve taken to screen each individual who has been here. We screened 17 aspirants, which is quite a number. We cleared 15 and two have not been cleared.
“Now, don’t ask me those who have been cleared and those who have not been cleared, because I won’t tell you. We haven’t released the result to them. So, if you ask a question in that direction, you’re wasting time.
“I think on the whole, that’s what we’ve done. And we’re quite satisfied with the standard of the aspirants by and large. And we think that any one of them, who gets the ticket, will win the election in 2023.”
Asked what the committee found wrong with the disqualified aspirants, Mark said, “They didn’t meet the requirements and I can’t be more specific about that.”
About the time of submission of the report to the NWC, he said, “This night (Friday). We’ll submit it and then those who were not cleared have a right to appeal. I’m sure they will go on appeal, because there is an appeal panel.”
Speaking on the 15 aspirants, who scaled the screening hurdle, the former Senate President noted that they were all qualified and would perform well if they emerged the flag bearer of the party in next year’s election.
Quizzed about a possible refund of the N40m each aspirant paid for the nomination and expression of interest forms, he quipped, “Why should they refund the money? What will be the reason now?”
The 17 aspirants screened on Friday included, Teriela Oliver, the only female aspirant in the race; governors Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto; Nyesom Wike of Rivers; Bala Mohammed of Bauchi; and Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom; as well as investment banker and economist, Mohammed Hayatu-Deen; former Anambra State governor Peter Obi; and former Senate President, Pius Anyim.
Others were former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar; former Senate President, Bukola Saraki; former Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose; ex-President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Sam Ohuabunwa; a United States-based medical doctor, Nwachukwu Anakwenze; Publisher, Ovation Magazine, Dele Momodu; former Speaker of the Abia State House of Assembly, Cosmos Ndukwe; Charles Ugwu; and Chikwendu Kalu.
Meanwhile, some of the presidential hopefuls had expressed divergent views on the zoning of the ticket.
Speaking to journalists after being screened, Emmanuel noted that despite the southern governors’ resolution that the presidential ticket be zoned to the South, the party’s decision would take precedence.
“The party is supreme. If the party has spoken, we will all abide by what the party has said,” the Akwa Ibom governor said.
On his likelihood of scaling through the process, the governor said, “I want to believe that all the people they’ve seen so far today are equal to the task to rescue and restore this country.
“But in the meantime, I want to believe that so many things are to my own advantage, because if you look at my antecedents, if you look at my training, if you look at the capacity and above all, I think age is also on my side.
“Nigeria today needs a very strong, agile young man. I think as so many factors are in my favour, and that will be decided by the electorate in the primary.”
Fayose voiced his support for zoning, saying it would reduce confusion.
He stated, “Well, I say it again very expressly that I am for zoning and I believe that the best thing this party can do for posterity so as not to cause confusion is for this party to zone this presidential ticket.
“If we fail to do it, even if we say anybody can contest, you must officially zone it to the South. In 1999, it was zoned to the South, which brought Obasanjo and Olu Falaye. But the party must remember that whatever we do today will stand against us tomorrow.”
On the screening, Fayose noted, “The panel said they’ve gone through my CV, they’re satisfied and they only want me to talk on the stomach infrastructure policy of my government when I was holding sway in Ekiti.
“So, I told them the importance of stomach infrastructure. And I equally made it very clear that if I become the President of Nigeria, I will be minister for stomach infrastructure and welfare of the people.”
In his remarks on zoning, Ohuabunwa said no manipulation of man could truncate the country’s destiny.
He stated, “They are all being strategic. Since the PDP has not announced, they also don’t want to announce so that they can keep the options open.
“But whether they announce or they don’t announce, what will happen has been predetermined.
“I’m a child of grace. I’m in this race by a conviction that is beyond the ordinary and I know that God, who owns the country and owns the universe, has finished it. So, every manipulation of man that is not right before Him will fail. God is going to intervene in Nigerian politics and elections in 2023 and it doesn’t matter the gimmicks.”